Spring Heat Waves & Ahi Tuna Avocado Poke


Although the vernal equinox occurred a week ago and our Hawaiian tans have long since faded, there’s nothing like a brief heat wave (It’s been in the 70s but more importantly, what’s that bright disc in the sky?) and a well connected fishmonger to bring the tropics to you. While poke is reminiscent of sashimi or ceviche, it actually is a traditional Hawaiian dish of seasoned raw meat (not always seafood but usually) that now has become more of a salad of sorts sporting different veggies like Mauai onion and tomato in addition to spicy chillies, tangy vinegars, and savory sauces. Since seafood is so abundant and each little town had their own fish market, we got to try many different and varied preparations of poke (aptly named from the Hawaiian verb “to slice or cut”) during our short stay in Kawaii. This particular combination of flavors is actually my fuzzy recall of my favorite poke from a now defunct izakaya and sushi bar in Seattle, we used to go there so often for お任せ omakase (literally to entrust something, basically chef’s choice) that the chef, Taka-san, would literally rub the hubster’s belly and make his decisions from there 😀 I like the balance of flavors here with the bright tart lemon offsetting the richness of the ahi tuna and creaminess of the avocado (a good source of vitamin K and folate and while 75% of the calories come from fats, at least they’re the unsaturated kind). The soy sauce gives you a nice savory depth, the onion provides astringent sweetness, and the toasted sesame seeds add a nutty roundness as well as some texture. Because the flavors are so simple with poke, you can easily switch them out, if lemon isn’t your thing try a couple teaspoons of rice wine vinegar instead or if you want an even richer flavor add 1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (a little goes a long way in this instance). You can serve 4 people with this as an appetizer or if you have it with 酢飯 sumeshi (vinegar seasoned sushi rice), 2 main course servings.


Sushi gets grades?
Eating raw fish, while delicious, can be hazardous. Mainly the concern is food-borne illnesses ranging from bacterial contamination to (ick factor alert) parasites. “Sushi grade” fish is a somewhat nebulous phrase that can vary from restaurant to sushi-ya and seafood purveyor to fishmonger but for food safety purposes, the FDA focuses on fish that has either been frozen at -31F (-35C) for at least 15 hours or -4F (-20C) for 7 days as the freezing process kills parasites. So while freshness and quality are part of the equation for working with raw fish, health is also an important factor.


4 oz sushi grade ahi tuna steak, skin and pin bones removed (I used Hawaiian Bigeye Ahi also known as 目撥 mebachi)
2 tsp light soy sauce (I like Yamasa)
1 tbsp Meyer lemon juice or 2 tsp regular lemon juice
1/2 avocado, in 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 small sweet onion, in 1/4-inch slices
1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Trim any gristle or connective tissue and cut ahi into 1-inch cubes.

In a small bowl combine soy sauce, lemon juice, and sesame seeds. Add ahi and mix to coat evenly in sauce. Fold in avocado and onion. Let marinate for ~10 minutes. Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as an entrée when served with sushi rice in a loose interpretation of 散らし鮨 chirashizushi (“scattered” sushi).


Nutritional information based on an appetizer-sized serving, if served with 1 1/2 c sumeshi as a main course the estimated calorie count is 387 🙂


About Cam

Enjoying the hippie life in Portlandia :)


    • Cam

      Thanks! It was so easy to make and even easier to gobble up. We’re pretty spoiled by all the good seafood here in Portland but I must say I was so covetous of all the amazing fish in Kauai 🙂

  1. I can have this everyday! yum!

  2. Wow . . . . . be careful or you may have visitors coming your way! THIS LOOKS FANTASTIC!

    • Cam

      That’s high praise coming from a former local! Those fresh flavors really did remind me of Kauai. Man did the fish markets have some amazing fish. I’d love to tackle laulau, mmm, savory smoky ham and butterfish tucked into spinach, ti, and luau leaves but I doubt I’d be able to find ti leaves here on the mainland. Sigh. Could you substitute pandan and banana leaves?

      • Banana leaves should work . . . . you know, there are two or three stores here in UT that carry luau leaves – we’ve got them to cook lau lau. I lived in Beaverton for awhile and I’m trying to remember if there were stores around there . . . . I bet there is. If not, I have some friends who live in the area that might know if you would like me to check.

        Seriously – LOVE YOUR RECIPES!

      • Cam

        You know, we have quite a few restaurants and food carts here in PDX that serve dishes made with taro leaves so I bet if I scour the Asian markets I’ll be able to find them. May have to settle for banana leaves cuz ti leaves seem to be so specific to Hawaiian cuisine but you never know. If your friends know of a place to go I’d be grateful 🙂

        [blush] I’m glad you like the recipes and thanks for the feedback!

  3. This looks wonderful, Cam. I wish I’d seen this recipe when I was preparing last week’s post. I could have easily used a little less tuna for my dish. That would have given me enough to make this, as well. Greedy? Moi? 🙂

    • Cam

      Hehe, this is payback for my newfound ChgoJohn pasta addiction 😉 but I’m pretty certain that your dealer fishmonger could hook you up with another infusion of tuna lol

  4. Danielle

    I tried this last night on a whim. While shopping for something else, I passed the seafood counter at Zupan’s and happened to notice the sashimi grade ahi. It was not only delicious, but simple and surprisingly filling. The only thing I’ll do differently next time is to cut the tuna into smaller pieces. Thanks!

    • Cam

      I’m glad you liked it. It is surprisingly filling for the amount that it makes, isn’t it? 1/2-inch ahi cubes is probably better, I was feeling rather gluttonous that evening lol

  5. i want want want. and i would have to fend odie off of this delicious dish as well!! thanks for sharing!

    • Cam

      Thanks! Those big brown eyes just make you feel like you’re denying food to a starving saint that would share his last crumb with you if the situations were reversed, right? I’m pretty certain this is why the vet keeps on telling me that the pooch has too much junk in his trunk 😅

      • oh he’s a sweetheart, your pooch boy. When the vet starts admonishing.. just remember these words “Theres just more of him to love.” !!
        Keep the great food and humorous insights coming!!
        We really enjoy your blog,
        O and OM
        (and we are putting together the Odyssians page as we speak. Ill find a way to send questions soon in a way that will expedite the whole process.. its times like these I wish wordpress had IM for its users..

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